June 30, 2009

The Music of Chilly Gonzales

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Discover the music of Chilly Gonzales with Killian Fox’s curated discography. Also be sure to check out his profile of Mr. Gonzales.

Gonzales Uber Alles

[Kitty-Yo] (2000)

After a disheartening brush with the music industry in Canada, Jason Beck decamped to Germany and created Chilly Gonzales. His first solo record, released on arty Berlin imprint Kitty-Yo, dabbled with electro, trip-hop and easy listening, most successfully on “Let’s Groove Again”. The album was largely instrumental and devoid of rapping, but its provocative title spoke of devilry to come

The Entertainist

[Kitty-Yo] (2000)

Gonzales’ first foray into rap music, or “prankster rap” as he called it, was an amalgam of nonsense rhymes, groansome puns, obscenities, reminiscences about going on an African safari, and cheaply produced beats. You could dismiss it as a goonish practical joke if it weren’t for the obvious love for hip-hop informing the rhymes and the feral punk-like energy, which on “Candy” turns into a vitriolic rant against his old label. Not to mention Gonzales’s rapping, which is surprisingly decent once you get beyond the lupine snarl, and the contributions from like-minded souls on the Berlin music scene such as Peaches, who produced the standout “Futuristic Ain’t Shit To Me”.

Presidential Suite

[Kitty-Yo] (2002)

After The Entertainist’s lo-fi japery, Gonzales returned with a more refined and richly produced record which re-imagined its protagonist as a smooth political operator ready to seize the reins of power. Some of the madcap rapping was retained – see “You Snooze You Lose” – but the skeletal electro beats were fleshed out with piano and string arrangements. “Take Me To Broadway”, in which Gonzales threatens to expose his chest hair if he ever gets there, hinted at the impending transition from rapping to singing. Feist and Peaches added guest vocals.

Solo Piano

[No Format!] (2004)

In the Gonzales context, this sublimely controlled classical piano album was a bolt from the blue, but in fact Beck is a classically trained pianist and has played since the age of three. These short, economical pieces, indebted to Erik Satie, linger in the ear long after the music fades. Not surprisingly, the album sold much better than previous efforts and the sheet music has also proven popular with people who’d probably run a mile from other Gonzales releases.

Soft Power

[Interscope] (2006)

Beck took a break from solo recording after Presidential Suite to produce for Feist, Jamie Lidell and others. Never one to do the same thing twice, he returned with a personal take on Seventies soft-rock ballads and disco anthems. Personal, because this was the music Beck loved as a kid, and also because he injects it with the distinctive Gonzales psychopathological spin. “I love you/ But I hate you” he croons at the start of “Slow Down”, the album’s gloriously cheesy highlight.

Killian Fox

Killian writes regularly for the Observer and is a contributing editor on the Observer Film Magazine. Film and …

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